Sofia Goggia Olympic downhill title defence in doubt after Sunday crash in Italy
U.S. medal contender Breezy Johnson pulls out of Winter Games
Sofia Goggia is going to need to recover in a hurry from a series of injuries following another crash on Sunday if she's going to be able to defend her Olympic downhill title next month.
Goggia would have been an overwhelming favourite for another gold — or two: she's also a force in super-G.
But the Italian sprained her left knee, partially tore a cruciate ligament and suffered a "minor fracture" of the fibula (calf) bone in her leg — plus some tendon damage — when she did the splits at high speed then tumbled down the mountain during a World Cup super-G at home in Cortina d'Ampezzo, her team said after a medical evaluation in Milan.
The crash came a day after Goggia won a downhill in Cortina with another wild run, a victory she labelled "one of the greatest wins" of her career.
Goggia will start physical rehab on Monday with the aim of returning in time for the downhill at the Beijing Olympics on Feb. 15.
WATCH | Goggia does splits, tumbles down course:
She'll therefore likely miss the Olympic giant slalom on Feb. 7 and the super-G on Feb. 11. She'll need to enter at least one downhill training session on Feb. 12, 13 or 14 to compete in the downhill — but preferably all three on a new course that she's never been on before.
"I'm upset," Goggia said. "It's not a break that I needed in such an important time of the season but I'm already going to start physical therapy in the coming hours, with the aim of trying to defend the Olympic title in the event that I love most."
Goggia was nominated to carry Italy's flag at the Feb. 4 opening ceremony of the Olympics but it's now unclear if she'll be able to travel to China by then.
Breezy Johnson out of Olympics
Breezy Johnson of the United States, the world's No. 2 women's downhiller, pulled out of the Olympics on Tuesday due to a knee injury suffered in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, last week.
The 26-year-old said she considered competing in Beijing despite the injury.
"But I don't think that that is realistic or smart," Johnson added. "I could do more damage and I certainly don't think I will be skiing my best."
Johnson placed second behind Goggia in the opening three downhills this season.
The make-or-break Goggia also had a high-speed crash during a downhill at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, last weekend. She escaped serious injury in that crash but was banged up to the point that she said she couldn't walk on Monday.
Italy's Elena Curtoni prevails in Cortina
Like the crash in Austria, Goggia's latest fall occurred on a section of the Cortina course where shadows made visibility difficult.
Goggia was 0.07 seconds behind teammate Elena Curtoni — the race winner — at the second checkpoint when she made an error and had to check her skis to stay within the course.
WATCH | Victorious Curtoni 2nd in super-G standings:
Roni Remme of Collingwood, Ont., was top Canadian in 32nd while Marie-Michèle Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was among 24 skiers to not finish the race.
Overall World Cup leader Mikaela Shiffrin didn't take many risks and placed 16th.
"Sofia's crash today was a humbling reminder of how brutal this sport can be," Shiffrin wrote on Instagram. "But seeing that there still is a chance for her to race DH [at]Olympics gives some hope.
"Watching her get up as soon as she was able and ski down after that is a testament to not only her strength and toughness, but her never-give-up mentality," the American added.
Goggia already missed her home world championships in Cortina last season after breaking a bone in her right knee. She has won six World Cup races this season — four in downhill and two in super-G.
While developing into the most dominant downhiller since Lindsey Vonn — Goggia won seven straight downhills that she entered over this season and last — the Italian has had numerous knee injuries throughout her career. She has torn the ACL in her right knee twice and once in her left knee — just to mention some of her more serious injuries.
Goggia's partially torn ligament was already operated on in 2013.
WATCH | Goggia wins Saturday downhill after 'tough week':
Curtoni's previous victory came in a downhill in Bansko, Bulgaria, two years ago. She has been strong all season and this marked her third podium result in six super-Gs.
Curtoni excelled on the technical middle section of the course where Goggia and several other skiers had trouble.
"There were some turns where I could have done more but it was still a good run on a difficult course-set," Curtoni said. "I did what I'm capable of out there."
The last three women's World Cup races have now been won by three different Italians: Federica Brignone won a super-G at Altenmarkt followed by Goggia's downhill victory on Saturday, then Curtoni.
Italy dominates the super-G standings, which are led by Brignone (377 points), who finished fourth Sunday, Curtoni (348) and Goggia (332).
Next up on the women's calendar is a giant slalom at Kronplatz in nearby San Vigilio di Marebbe on Tuesday. Then another weekend of speed races in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, are the final events before the Beijing Games.
With files from CBC Sports & Field Level Media